If you’re interested in what’s happened to our music habits over the past four to five decades, look at this graph from the the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It tells an interesting and sobering story about how technology has changed our habits. The graph represents music revenues in inflation-adjusted dollars between 1973 and 2018. This is the income that songwriters and recording artists receive from sales of their music. Record labels take the biggest chunk of this income, of course, but you can see how overall revenue has dwindled after its peak at the millennium. Continue reading →
Before the digital age, music presented an already complicated business for artists to understand. But the fragmentation created by the Internet has created a baffling array of rights, royalties, and revenue streams, along with innumerable organizations authorized to collect these revenues. I’ve been in the music business for a couple of decades now, releasing albums. I’m still surprised to learn things I didn’t know. This post attempts to break down the various royalties and rights, and how they are collected. If you don’t already know this—or if you think you know it (like I did) but can’t explain it in detail to someone else—you’re probably losing out on revenue. Continue reading →
In the August 28, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about a the impact of technology on culture. She reviews a new book by Jonathan Taplin, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” While technology and the Internet have benefited us with convenience and expansive social connectivity (especially for niche areas), it has also damaged culture. That is the premise of the book.
Taplin offers the example of Levon Helm, the drummer for the Band. Though he never got rich off his music, he was supported by royalties into middle age, earning about $100,000 a year. Continue reading →
Recent reports highlight new troubles for the music industry and artists who try to earn a living through music. What the digital realm giveth, the digital realm taketh away. Like so many other developments, these erode cultural support for musicians. I’m no fan of the corporate music industry, which has long taken advantage of musicians, but most musicians these days just can’t win. Continue reading →